Discover more from Jillyanna's Woodfired Cooking School Newsletter
Something You Love
When I start a fire, I like to begin with narrow strips of fruitwood. The cherry wood and walnut trimmings that I keep indoors are often so smooth and beautiful that I feel embarrassed burning them, but my generous furniture maker, who lives down the street and who has made much of the handmade furniture in my house is happy to donate his leftovers, so I give myself permission to proceed. I crisscross the dry planks in a tic-tac-toe pattern on the cool floor of my pizza oven, always leaving plenty of gaps for ventilation. I fill in some of the gaps with a few dry twigs and begin layering the top of the fruitwood scraps with small, well-seasoned oak logs from my property. Now all I have to do is strike a match and ignite a couple of small, waxy cubes placed strategically around the twigs. Then…poof! The fun begins. The little flames in my oven grow and and begin to dance. For me, this is the greatest show on earth. Nothing calms me down quicker or delights me more than listening to the snap and crackle of burning twigs. I know my cheeks are turning pink as the hot smoky air swirls before my eyes and yet I can’t turn away. Yesterday, I made my first outdoor fire in five months and some of the hard anxiety I had been holding in all winter started to melt away. Valerie was setting the patio table with our hand-painted Italian pizza plates that match the color of the lilacs I cut earlier in the day. Friends were coming for supper. Finally, being home in Maine felt right.
The act of returning to something you love after a long hiatus, should be easy, but I know it’s not. Will the thing I love still love me after all this time apart? After hunkering down and tamping down my emotions for so long, will I explode when I allow myself to feel joy? It took faith and courage for me to get on a plane after my second vaccine, but I was determined to go visit my family in Florida. I was so relieved to hug my 86-year-old mother again, to realize we had survived Covid-19. It’s easy to feel bitter that we were robbed of one year together, but it’s so much better to appreciate each other and feel grateful for the time we have left.
Valerie and I are happyl that we, along with most people we know, have been vaccinated. A few of our friends have had mild reactions (headaches, chills) to the vaccine that lasted no more than 24 hours. And all of us agree that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. I am especially pleased to tell you that given the CDC’s latest recommendations, while we are outdoors, masks are now not required at Jillyanna’s Woodfired Cooking School. Masks are required indoors, except when students are seated and eating. This policy may change over time as more people get vaccinated and the number of people with the virus drops, but for now we want to err on the side of safety. If you have any questions or concerns about this policy, please contact us. As our events this summer are private, we can easily accommodate your specific needs.
We open Friday, June 18th and, as a special incentive for you to book early, we are offering a discount on all two-and-a -half hour private wood-fired pizza parties booked before that date. In addition to private parties, I am offering private Signature Pizza Classes so if you have always wanted to learn to make three different doughs in three different ovens (electric, gas and wood-fired) you can book a private class for 6, 7 or 8 people on a day and time that works best for your small group. For those who have wood-fired ovens and wish to hone their wood-fired cooking skills, we are offering two different intensives this year: one that is devoted to making Neapolitan pizzas and one that is devoted to making healthy Mediterranean food. These intensives are 4 1/2 hours in length so you will have plenty of one-on-one instruction and time to practice using my wood-fired tools. Recipes are included in all cooking classes (not parties). I am hoping to add more classes as time passes and more people are vaccinated. If you are more comfortable taking virtual cooking classes, please look at all the offerings and let me know when you would like to Zoom together. If you have taken a Zoom class with me and would now like to sign up for an in-person private wood-fired pizza party, let me know. You will receive 10% off the cost of your private party!
While I was in Florida visiting my mom, I did find some time to hang out at her pool and read a charming memoir: Always Home by Fanny Singer. When you come to Maine this summer to relax, read, (and cook with me, of course) I hope you bring this book along with you. I have always admired Fanny’s mother, Alice Waters, but I developed an even deeper respect for the California chef, restaurateur and food activist after reading how she nurtured her daughter’s body and soul. One of Fanny’s favorite comfort dishes is a fresh farm egg cooked over glowing coals in the hearth of Alice’s kitchen fireplace. The egg, souffléd in an iron spoon laced with a sprinkle of salt and olive oil, is placed over a garlic rubbed slice of sourdough toast and accompanied by a small lightly dressed salad. If you sign up for one of my wood-fired intensives, I’ll make it for you. In the meantime, if you want to get a sense of Fanny’s affection for her mother and even watch the duo improvise together, take a look at this video where they make “Coming Home Pasta.” The “recipe” includes capers, anchovies, parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, penne, dried red pepper flakes, black pepper, lemon rind, lemon juice, olive oil and a little salted pasta water….easy ingredients to find and, after you watch the video, pretty simple to prepare.
I have included more detailed and more personal recipes in the paid newsletter that is going out shortly so I encourage you to sign up for this cook’s special from me.
In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying what is left of May. Time is precious and we are so looking forward to seeing you again. For more information about upcoming classes, check out our website www.jillyannas.com or give us a call at 207-967-4960 if you are ready to book a Private Wood-fired Pizza Party, Wood-fired Intensive, Signature Pizza Class or a Zoom Class.
See you soon!